Several years ago, I took my brother shopping while he was in town visiting. As we walked through the store, he picked up a bag of apple chips and opened it.
“Have some,” he said.
That was nice, so I did.
As we wound through the aisles, he also picked up a soft drink. Then, at the checkout line, he paid for a couple of items he had put into the basket and walked outside to wait for me.
I noticed that the chip bag and soft drink bottle were at the bottom of the cart. The cashier offered to throw them away, but I told her they were part of my order.
When I got outside and asked him about it, he said, “Oh, they expect that in a store.”
I thought of that the other day when I read an Associated Press news story out of Honolulu about a couple who were arrested for eating sandwiches while shopping and then walking out of the grocery store without paying. Custody of their 2-year-daughter was temporarily taken away from them before everyone made up.
“I didn’t know it was such a taboo thing,” the pregnant mother said. “Where I grew up in a small town it’s not seen as stealing for sure.”
I don’t know where she grew up, but with her reasoning, she could go into a bakery and eat a whole cake free of charge if it leaves the store in her stomach and not in a box. (I’m pretty sure my brother has done that.)
I told a co-worker about that story, and she said a little sampling in the store is a necessity. She tries out the grapes before buying them, for instance.
I disagreed, but then said that after I bought grapes last week I got home and discovered they had seeds.
“When was the last time you saw seeds in a grape?” I asked.
“See,” she said. “That’s something you could have found out in time if you had sampled them in the store.”
Maybe, but I remember the last time I was in a supermarket that has items you scoop out of big barrels. I asked an employee whether I could sample a new item before buying a lot of it.
“You can sample anything you want to,” she assured me.
I felt like a bandit as I tried a couple of foods I had never tasted before, but I made sure not to overdo it and take advantage of the store’s largesse.
The last time I filched food, I remembered, was when I was 6 or 7 and had walked the quarter-mile to the country store up the highway from our house.
The little Hershey bars that now come in a bag sold at two for a penny back then. I didn’t have a penny, but I did have a pocket, so I swiped a couple of them and went home.
It wasn’t long, though, before guilt overcame me. I walked back to the store, handed Mrs. Stephenson the bars and apologized. She told me to keep them, which made me feel even worse.
I gave up my career of crime on the spot, and now, I sample by the rules.